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Kay Johnson

Myanmar junta chief said ASEAN envoy can meet Suu Kyi party members - Cambodian minister

Myanmar military leader Min Aung Hlaing agreed to arrange for an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) special envoy from Cambodia to meet members of the ousted ruling party on a future visit, a senior Cambodian official said on Monday.

The pledge, made in a Jan. 26 video call with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, represents a small concession in a deadlocked peace process since Myanmar's military seized power a year ago from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD).

Min Aung Hlaing did not identify which members of the NLD might be made available, said Kao Kim Hourn, a minister in Hun Sen's office who was part of the video meeting.

"They have said during the video conferencing between our prime minister and senior general Min Aung Hlaing that they would provide access to some of the NLD figures, but we don't know those yet," Kao Kim Hourn told Reuters by telephone.

A spokesman for Myanmar's junta did not answer a telephone call seeking comment.

Myanmar has been in crisis since the military seized power, with about 1,500 civilians killed in the junta's crackdown on its opponents, according to figures cited by the United Nations human rights office.

Involving all parties to Myanmar's crisis in dialogue is a key pillar of an ASEAN peace process adopted by the 10-nation bloc last year. Among the others are ending violence and welcoming a special envoy.

Kao Kim Hourn acknowledged that it was unlikely for the envoy, Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn, to meet on his initial trip with Suu Kyi, who has been detained since the coup and is facing various criminal charges that carry jail terms adding up to nearly 150 years.

"The idea, the goal is to meet with all relevant, important stakeholders. But it may not be on one go - it could be a number of visits," Kao Kim Hourn said. "So, of course, it would be great to have Madame Suu Kyi be included."

Dozens of NLD party members have been detained since the Feb. 1, 2021, coup.

Nay Phone Latt, a spokesperson of the NLD's exiled remaining leadership, said any meetings with the ASEAN envoy should be agreed on by the party.

Min Aung Hlaing's pledge was not enough for Cambodia to invite Myanmar to next week's ASEAN foreign minister's retreat.

Cambodia, this year's ASEAN chair, last week asked Myanmar to name a non-political representative, continuing the exclusion of junta officials that began at last year's annual leaders' summit.

(Additional reporting by Reuters Staff; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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